California Chrome showed why he was a runaway favorite for the 140th Kentucky Derby, as the Art Sherman trainee pulled away down the stretch and then coasted to victory in the Run for the Roses.
Will California Chrome win the Triple Crown?
As he crossed the finish line, there was little doubt that he was a deserving winner. He was smart when he needed to be and fast when he had to be.
Commanding Curve ran to a surprising second to provide for a solid $2 exacta payout of $340. Todd Pletcher trainee Danza came in third to round out the money finishes.
Wicked Strong just missed out on a finish in the money in fourth but did earn $100,000 for his owners. Samraat came in fifth and was the last horse to take any winnings from the race.
Have a look at the results and earnings:
|1||5||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||$1,442,800|
|2||17||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||Dallas Stewart||$400,000|
|3||4||Danza||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher||$200,000|
|4||20||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||Jimmy Jerkens||$100,000|
|5||6||Samraat||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette Jr.||$60,000|
|6||12||Dance With Fate||Corey Nakatani||Peter Eurton|
|7||19||Ride On Curlin||Calvin Borel||Billy Gowan|
|8||14||Medal Count||Robby Albarado||Dale Romans|
|9||13||Chitu||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert|
|10||7||We Miss Artie||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher|
|11||8||General A Rod||Joel Rosario||Mike Maker|
|12||16||Intense Holiday||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher|
|13||18||Candy Boy||Gary Stevens||John Sadler|
|14||3||Uncle Sigh||Irad Ortiz Jr.||Gary Contessa|
|15||15||Tapiture||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen|
|16||2||Harry's Holiday||Corey Lanerie||Mike Maker|
|17||9||Vinceremos||Joe Rocco Jr.||Todd Pletcher|
|18||10||Wildcat Red||Luis Saez||Jose Garoffalo|
|19||1||Vicar's In Trouble||Rosie Napravnik||Mike Maker|
|11||Hoppertunity||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert|
After Bob Baffert's Hoppertunity was scratched, 19 horses left the Derby starting gate. It was a relatively clean start. California Chrome had a slight stumble leaving the gate but had no problem keeping up with the slow, early pace.
He hung back in third for much of the race, but once he made the turn for the homestretch, he flashed his speed.
He easily overtook early pace-setters Uncle Sigh and Chitu, as his initial burst left the rest of the field battling for place.
As he galloped to the finish, jockey Victor Espinoza had a big enough cushion to let up and celebrate early. You can see that for yourself in the replay of the race:
After he won four races in a row entering Churchill Downs, California Chrome's win was no shock. This horse's modest breeding certainly makes his success unlikely, but his form made the win completely unsurprising.
He will now head to the Preakness on May 17, looking to further his attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
Meanwhile, Commanding Curve's success was a surprise. As NBC Sports' Josh Elliott pointed out, he was going off as a 50-1 long shot:
Heavy favorite California Chrome wins the 140th Kentucky Derby. 50-1 shot Commanding Curve places, Danza shows.... #KYDerby— Josh Elliott (@JoshElliott32) May 3, 2014
Daily Racing Form's Marcus Hersh points out the kind of speed he flashed to earn place:
26.16-second final quarter-mile. 51.84 final half. Gotta say - Commanding Curve was really the only one that finished. #KyDerby— Marcus Hersh (@DRFHersh) May 3, 2014
Sure, California Chrome eased up a bit at the end, but Curve's closing stretch can't be ignored.
Up next is the Preakness. It is just a touch shorter than the Derby, so Curve's stamina and closing speed will be slightly diminished. Still, he is the only horse who looked to have enough to even hope to derail Chrome's Triple Crown chances in Baltimore.